Album Details

October 12, 1999
Sony Music Distribution
Pop/Rock, Disco, Adult Contemporary, Alternative/Indie Rock, Singer/Songwriter, Soft Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary R&B, Soul, Urban, Rock & Roll, New Wave, Punk/New Wave, Album Rock

Album Review

To commemorate the end of the century, Sony Music assembled the gargantuan 26-disc box set, Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century. The title was imposing, as was the idea behind it -- to chronicle the life of the oldest record label in the music industry. To be clear, Sony Music has not existed for 100 years, but the heart of its catalog, Columbia Records, was founded early in the 20th century. Sony acquired Columbia and its various subsidiaries in the late '80s, purchasing one of the richest catalogs in pop history, as the box set proves again and again. Sony realized that most consumers wouldn't invest in a 26-disc box, no matter how impressive it was, so they simultaneously released a series of 12 genre-specific double-disc sets that culled highlights from the set. That left two discs exclusive to the box, which was appropriate, since anyone who spends over $300 on an album deserves a little bonus. As it turns out, the double-disc sets are every bit as impressive as the big box, perhaps more so, because they're easily digestible. Even so, the scope of the 38-track Pop Music: The Modern Era 1976-1999 is impressive. Beginning with Aerosmith's "Dream On" and ending with Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)," the collection covers a huge amount of ground, featuring not just major artists, but era-defining one-hit wonders. Sure, it's easy to spot omissions or quibble about the featured selections, but it's amazing to think that all these songs came from one group of labels. Some selections don't hold up -- Michael Bolton's "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" actually sounds more dated than anything from the late '70s -- but that's fine, since this winds up being a representative snapshot of mainstream pop in the last 25 years of the 20th century. After all, any collection that has Wild Cherry ("Play That Funky Music"), James Taylor ("Your Smiling Face"), Electric Light Orchestra ("Don't Bring Me Down"), Journey ("Open Arms"), Herbie Hancock ("Rockit"), Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias ("To All the Girls I've Loved Before"), New Kids on the Block ("Step by Step"), and Will Smith ("Gettin' Jiggy Wit It"), to name but a few, goes a long way in capturing how ephemeral, weird, and wonderful the '70s, '80s, and '90s could be.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Dream On
  2. Play That Funky Music
  3. Lowdown
  4. Boogie Nights
  5. Your Smiling Face
  6. Just the Way You Are
  7. Two Tickets to Paradise
  8. Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)
  9. Don't Bring Me Down
  10. Hungry Heart
  11. Guilty
  12. Keep on Loving You
  13. Open Arms
  14. Ebony and Ivory
  15. Rosanna
  16. Who Can It Be Now?
  17. Heartlight
  18. Rockit
  19. Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  20. Billie Jean
  21. Careless Whisper
  22. To All the Girls I've Loved Before
  23. Smooth Operator
  24. Wishing Well
  25. Anything for You
  26. Eternal Flame
  27. We Didn't Start the Fire
  28. How Am I Supposed to Live Without You
  29. Step by Step
  30. Black or White
  31. You Gotta Be
  32. Because You Loved Me
  33. Sunny Came Home
  34. Virtual Insanity
  35. My All
  36. Criminal
  37. Gettin' Jiggy Wit It
  38. Doo Wop (That Thing)